THE BURDEN WE BEAR - The Warrior's Journey®
Moral Injury


Author: David Causey, USA (Ret.)

Behind the Wheel. Photo by The U.S. Army is licensed under CC By 2.0

Humpback Whales are slow-moving burden bearers.  The chief burden they bear throughout life are extensive colonies of barnacles… 

Life’s Woes

Paratroopers from around the world participate in Leapfest, Aug. 3, 2019, West Kingston, R.I. Leapfest is the largest static line parachute competition in the world. (U.S. Air National Guard photos by Staff Sgt. Deirdre Salvas, 143 AW/PA)

…The barnacles are crustaceans – like crabs and lobsters – which attach to the skin, drill into it, and proceed to build their little limestone castles atop it. Though not true parasites, barnacles contribute nothing to the whale.  But they do weigh down the whale.  An adult Humpback will carry up to 1,000 pounds of barnacles.  They also slow the whale down, since they replace the sleek, smooth skin of the whale with a rough, resistant surface.  Whale barnacles – yes there are whale-specific barnacles – also harbor huge amounts of whale lice, which are true parasites which feed off the whale.

Toothed whales, such as the Sperm Whale, tend not to be troubled by barnacles, since they move faster and are therefore less vulnerable.

Now, if you ask a marine biologist, they’re likely to sing the praises of whale barnacles.  This is because they assist these scientists in identifying individual whales and also in tracking their migrations.  But barnacles provide no known benefit to the infested whale.

A Heavy Ruck

Day two of Exercise Alpini Climb concludes with Sky Soldier leaders hiking to over 2600 meters above sea level and digging temporary snow shelters to face the frigid night in Passo del Tonale, Italy on December 11, 2018.

As I think about the slower-moving Humpbacks, which carry an ever-growing burden of flow-resistant barnacles, something comes to mind.  There are many people who carry an ever-growing burden of emotional and mental wounds through life.  They’re usually the less aggressive, gentler people of our predator-friendly society.  And it is their gentleness that actually makes them more vulnerable to emotional cuts and bruises.  And like those long-living barnacles, these bruises never seem to heal.  They only accumulate – and increase the pain level of the person who bears them.

Can you imagine how it would be if every skin abrasion, cut, burn, and wound never healed?  By the time you reached adulthood, you’d be covered with wounds and life would be misery.  That’s what happens internally for the emotionally scarred.  The wounds never seem to heal.

Oh, we can cover them over with achievements, titles, positions, academic degrees and other tokens of success.  But they do little more than a child’s kiddie Band-Aids.  Just let something negative happen and the old wounds immediately reopen.  All at once we’re reminded of just how much pain we still bear and how little we’ve progressed.

We can find some help from psychologists and counselors.  But too frequently our wounds – that slow our lives to a crawl and create dysfunction in us – will be treated as some kind of sin.  So we not only bear the pain, but also a sense of guilt with it.

The One Who Understands

But there is a place of healing and peace.  It’s in your heavenly Father’s loving embrace.  Only in the arms of your loving Savior can you find true acceptance, love, approval, and freedom from pain.  In fact, it’s usually that cumulative and unbearable pain that drives us into our loving Lord’s arms.

In this life, we may never know complete relief from pain.  Our ultimate healing won’t come until Christ brings us to be with Him in heaven.  There He will dry every tear.  But as long as we suffer down here, Jesus will always be the tree of life to us.  His healing leaves are precisely what God, the great physician prescribes for all that ails us.

Jesus said, “Come unto Me, all of you who weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).


I will arise and go to Jesus.  He’ll embrace me in His arms.  In the arms of my dear Savior, Oh, there are ten thousand charms.


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